Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

Welcome to the hundreds of new Weekly Sift subscribers. The Sift works like this: All posts come out on Mondays. First thing Monday morning, a teaser appears. It’s chatty and previews what I plan to post. Throughout the morning, one or more featured articles come out, and finally the weekly summary with a lot of short notes and links. I try to keep the total word count of all posts (other than the Teaser) down to 3,500. I usually overshoot, but it’s seldom much over 4,000.

It’s been a wild week at the Sift. Last week’s featured article “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party” had the hottest first week in Weekly Sift history. It already has the Sift’s third-highest total pageview count at (currently) a little over 60,000. It’s still viral, with almost 7K hits yesterday. If you were considering sharing it on Facebook, discussing it on your blog, or voting it up on Reddit, I hope you do.

For the first time ever I shut down comments on a post, for two reasons: (1) By Saturday, I couldn’t both keep up with the comments and write this week’s Sift, and (2) commenters were starting to get nasty with each other. I also deleted a non-spam comment for the first time, because its only content was a crude insult against another commenter. I need to rethink my policy, so that I do stuff like this in a coherent way. I want comments, and I have a high tolerance for comments that disagree with my posts, but I also want commenters to feel comfortable and safe. Feel free to make suggestions below.

Anyway, that was last week. This week’s featured post should come out around 10 (EDT). I’m calling it “The Ferguson Test” and discussing how the events in Ferguson give us all a chance to observe the unconscious racism in our reactions. Our conscious opinions about race are one thing, but the way our pre-conscious mental processes frame a racially charged situation is something else.

In the weekly summary (probably around noon; these estimates are never exact) I’ll link to a lot of stuff other people wrote about Ferguson and the week’s other big story, the death of Robin Williams. Hillary Clinton’s attempts to separate herself from the Obama administration’s foreign policy have got me thinking about 2016, which I’ve been trying not to do. In particular: I’m a liberal Democrat, so do I want Clinton to face only token opposition in the primaries, leaving her well set up for a Democratic victory in the general election? Or do I want a strong candidate promoting a more liberal agenda and forcing Clinton left, even if that increases the chances of a Republican win? Or is that the wrong way to look at it?

The Monday Morning Teaser

The featured article this week is something I’ve been working on quite a while: “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party”. For almost two years I’ve been on a reading project that has radically changed my interpretation of American history, and shone a different light on today’s politics. Along the way, I’ve been able to break out some of that work into articles like “Slavery Lasted Until Pearl Harbor“, but today I’m going to try to sum it all up.

The full thesis is that the way you were taught about Reconstruction in high school (or in the movies) is completely wrong: Reconstruction was the second phase of the Civil War, and when you put the two phases back together, you’re left with a war that looks a lot like Iraq — an initial battlefield victory, followed by a terrorist insurgency against the occupation. Ultimately, the insurgency was successful, and the Confederate social order was restored. In short, the South won.

That victory set up a Confederate pattern of no-holds-barred resistance to social change that has been with us ever since, centered in the South but not strictly Southern. That pattern repeated most obviously in the resistance to the Civil Rights movement, but also in resistance to abortion rights, and in the current Tea Party rejection of all things Obama. The essence of the Confederate worldview is that the democratic process cannot legitimately change the established social order, and so all forms of legal and illegal resistance are justified when it tries.

Along the way, we’ll see where the enthusiasm for guns comes from, as well as the bogus co-opting of the American revolutionaries and the Founders. Scratch the surface of the Tea Party, and it has much more to do with Richmond and Montgomery than with Boston or Philadelphia, and inherits more from Jefferson Davis than from Thomas Jefferson.

As you might imagine, covering all that takes a long time. The weekly summary will be shortened accordingly, and I’ll still run over my usual word limit.

I always underestimate how long it takes to put the finishing touches on a long article, so let’s guess the Tea/Confederate article comes out around 10 EDT, with the shortened weekly summary around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week’s main article is the one I didn’t get finished in time for last week: A look at Paul Ryan’s sketch of a poverty plan. It’s interesting and in some ways creditable that Republicans are finally talking about these issues, but it’s hard to see how they’re going to do anything effective without removing their ideological blinders.

In the weekly summary, I’ll explain why everybody in New England is talking about two cousins battling for control of a grocery chain, what’s worrisome about those deep holes in Siberia, who’s really behind the impeachment talk, and what Congress did and didn’t get done before going away for August. Also: Senator Whitehouse’s global-warming speech, Rep. King’s theocratic musings, and the biggest reason to believe Congress intended health-insurance subsidies to apply to all the exchanges. And in closing, a Portuguese artist who uses operating railroad tracks in his art.

I’m expecting the poverty article to post around 10, with the weekly summary posting around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Tuesday, two judges in the D. C. appeals court tried to sabotage ObamaCare by ruling that people in 36 states aren’t eligible for the subsidies. This week’s first featured article will explain why they said that, why four other judges of equal rank disagreed, and why I don’t think this is going to bring ObamaCare down. Truthfully, this unending series of crises is getting kind of old. It might make more sense to write an article some week when there isn’t a new plot to destroy ObamaCare. That would be news.

The other featured article will look at Paul Ryan’s sketch of a new approach to fighting poverty. Ryan is reminding me of what “compassionate conservatism” really means: It’s how a compassionate person would react if s/he lived in the strange alternate universe described by conservative rhetoric. So yes, if the poverty problem were mainly the result of poor people (through laziness or some other character flaw) failing to take advantage of the marvelous opportunities provided by our perfect capitalist system, then this would be a wonderful plan.

Otherwise, most of the stuff that was happening last week is still happening: the invasion of Gaza, the government wondering where to put the Central American refugee kids, the Russia/Ukraine problem, the dysfunctionality of Congress, and so forth. However, as of yesterday it looked like Democrats and Republicans had agreed on a plan to reform the Veterans Administration which could pass before Congress’ August vacation, though no one is saying what’s in it until a press conference later today.

I’m aiming to have the article on the ObamaCare ruling out by 10 and the Ryan plan by 11, with the weekly summary posting around noon. All times EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week’s featured article focuses on the Gaza conflict, which I punted last week because I was reading a lot more noise than insight and didn’t want to make that situation worse. I originally thought I would have space for a review of Douglas Egerton’s new book The Wars of Reconstruction — I have come to believe that the blind spot Americans have about the period following the Civil War is a major stumbling block in the discussion of current problems  — but that will have to wait until next Monday.

I haven’t titled the Gaza article yet, which is an indication of how much work is still to be done, so I make no promises about when it will post. Later today, the weekly summary will discuss the shot-down airliner, the continuing kids-at-the-border problem, my inability to ignore Todd Akin (who doesn’t deserve my attention or yours), what Years of Living Dangerously can teach us about combating science denial in general, and a few other things, concluding with Weird Al’s new video “Word Crimes”. (Finally, something good comes from “Blurred Lines”.)


The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s a Democratic president’s second term and there’s a Republican House, so of course it’s time to talk about impeachment. But first there will be a warm-up, the House’s lawsuit against the President for not enforcing the Affordable Care Act fast enough, which John Boehner hopes will keep the Republican base satisfied until after the fall elections. Sarah Palin, though, has other ideas.

I’ll examine all that — along with the importance of sounding specific but staying vague in right-wing rhetoric — in this week’s featured article, “Boehner’s Lawsuit and Palin’s 25 Impeachable Offenses”. Beyond that, a lot has been going on: the refugee-kids-at-the-border crisis, new skirmishing between Israel and Gaza, a religion professor’s fascinating response to the Hobby Lobby decision, and the dramatic return of Todd (Legitimate Rape) Akin, who now says the only thing he did wrong was apologize. (We missed you, Todd. Please make as many public appearances as possible between now and the election. If possible, could you concentrate on states where Democratic women have close Senate races?)

I’m aiming to have the lawsuit/impeachment article out by ten (EDT), and the weekly summary, “The Other Guys”, by noon.


The Monday Morning Teaser

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision came out at about the same time I was pushing the Post button on last week’s Sift. In my neighborhood of the blogosphere, it’s all anybody’s been talking about ever since. Every time I thought I had seen all the important angles in the decision, some new article pointed out something I hadn’t noticed.

In my view, it’s kind of a sneaky decision. It appears limited to the particular facts of this case, but its logic has vast unexplored consequences that will play out — and already are playing out — in cases still to be decided. So the most extreme criticisms of the decision can easily be denied: Hobby Lobby doesn’t really do those horrible things, it just lays the groundwork for future decisions to do those horrible things. And the Court’s conservative majority will also be in a position to deny that those decisions are radical; they’ll just apply the precedents set in Hobby Lobby.

Explaining all that will take some time, both time this morning to finish the article and time as measured in words.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So much has happened these last two weeks that this week’s Sift is entirely devoted to catching up. I’m spending my full (self-imposed) word limit on the weekly summary and don’t have any separate featured articles.

What’s been happening? Well, it’s the end of the Supreme Court’s year, so decisions have been spilling out like the term papers of procrastinating freshmen. Unfortunately, though, their last day is today, so I won’t have time to digest the most important decision: Hobby Lobby, where a trumped-up notion of Christian entitlement masquerades as religious liberty and threatens to give employers control of their employee’s health care. But the Court did rule on the privacy of cell phones (which the Founders apparently foresaw), the President’s power to make recess appointments, and buffer zones around abortion clinics.

Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran’s primary run-off victory over Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel has been good theater. Cochran won by taking advantage of Mississippi’s open-primary rules to get votes from blacks who usually vote for Democrats. McDaniel apparently thought he was in an old-fashioned white primary (which used to be a thing in the Jim Crow South), called a foul, and has refused to concede. It’s like grade school recess: If the Tea Party loses, somebody must have cheated. They’re working to identify who it was.

John Boehner announced that he’s suing President Obama for … something. He didn’t specify exactly.

The news about ObamaCare continues to be good and mostly unreported. Paul Krugman — I guess all by himself he’s the “liberal media” we hear so much about — collected some of it.

And a bunch more stuff, ending with an amazing use of perspective illusions in the new video by OK Go.

Since I’ve decided not to wait for the Court, the weekly summary should be out by 10 o’clock Eastern, or close to it. But if I get delayed and then the ruling comes out, who knows?


The Monday Morning Teaser

Two stories grabbed everyone’s attention this week: Sunni extremists seizing a big chunk of Iraq, and Eric Cantor losing his primary to Dave Brat, a guy most of us had never heard of.

On the Right, the Iraq story was all about how Obama should never have pulled out all our troops. Chatter on the Left, conversely, focused on how Bush never should have destabilized the country in the first place. Perversely, the media kept consulting “Iraq experts” whose advice was spectacularly wrong in 2002. In “Iraq is Still Broken”, I’ll go back to an expert whose accounts hold up pretty well to hindsight: University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole.

The Cantor debacle was covered widely, but not very deeply: It has been presented as a David-defeats-Goliath story in which the conservative grass roots take down a powerful insider. Yes, Cantor is a powerful insider, but in “Actually, David IS Goliath” I’ll take a closer look at the powerful forces behind Brat.

Not quite as newsy, but fascinating all the same, was a Pew report on political polarization. Not only did it quantify what everybody already knows — Americans are diverging into liberal and conservative camps — but it pointed out some interesting ways that the two sides are not just mirror images of each other. When James Madison was designing the Constitution’s system of separated powers, I don’t think he imagined so many of those powers winding up in the hands of people who think compromise is evil. I’ll discuss that in the weekly summary.

Also in the summary: Capitalism’s answer to school shootings. It’s really hard to be a good guy with a gun. Yes, George Will wrote a bad thing, but the reason WaPo should fire him is that his column is such a waste of valuable opinion-making real estate. And a photographer in Botswana does what we’d all do if we had a Batman-level toy budget: attach a camera to a radio-controlled dune buggy and drive it into a pride of lions.


The Monday Morning Teaser

I spent much of this week meditating on the mysterious rage against Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the last American POW from the Afghan War. None of the supposed justifications of that anger hold water when you look at them closely, and most of the people leading the charge against Bergdahl’s release are the same people who (just a few months ago) were vehemently demanding Obama do something to get him back. The deal that got made was the same one that had been on the table for months, maybe years: trade him for those same five guys, who may have been bad dudes in the Afghan government 12 years ago, but were never terrorists, never attacked the U.S., and have been completely out of the loop for more than a decade.

I couldn’t figure it out. I could fact-check the bullshit, but that seemed to miss the point. Where was this coming from?

And then it hit me: It’s over. That amazing righteous-fury power high we got on after 9/11 — it’s over. The Bergdahl deal was Obama announcing last call at the War on Terror Bar and starting to put the chairs on top of the tables. Remember how pumped up we were during happy hour, when W was saying “Let’s roll” and promising to rid the world of evil-doers? It wasn’t supposed to be like this, was it? Way back when we were starting to invade Iraq, General Petraeus said, “Tell me how this ends.” Well, this is how it ends.

Sucks, doesn’t it?

That’s going to be this week’s featured article: “This Is How It Ends”. I’m not sure how long it will take to put the finishing touches on it. It’ll be out this morning sometime.

As for the rest of the week, we had another school shooting. The NRA tried to back away from the lunatics who think it’s a good idea to take assault rifles into fast-food restaurants, but then they realized that lunatics are their base and if they start trying to get distance from the crazy people there will be no good place to stop. People who know something are starting to tell us what the EPA’s new carbon-emission rules will mean. You can add Wisconsin to marriage equality’s 13-state winning streak. And the proposal that came out of the platform committee for the Texas GOP is so batshit crazy … I know they’re serious and that ought to be depressing, but The Onion couldn’t have made this up. You have to laugh.

And while I’m reflecting, last week was a pretty good week on the Sift. “#YesAllWomen and the Continuum of Aggression” is closing in on 5,000 page views. It’s #9 on the Sift’s all-time-hit list.


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